How Mark Zuckerberg Defined and Pivoted Facebook’s Values Based on One Question

How Mark Zuckerberg Defined and Pivoted Facebook’s Values Based on One Question

Mark Zuckerberg has managed to take an idea and transform it into one of the biggest company in the world. We are currently two billion humans with a Facebook account; many of us have it opened all day long on their desktops and have the app and messenger on their phones. In ten years, Facebook went through dozens of iterations, including surviving lack of monetization and being wayyyy behind in the app race.

And it’s now stronger than ever. As creatives, there’s a lot we can learn from Zuckerberg and any entrepreneurs dedicated to growth. Why? Because growth is about finding creative ways to beat exhaustion, indifference, repetition, and oblivion.

The problem, of course, is that you can find shitty and morally arguable ideas to grow if your goal is “Growth at all costs“, “Famous at all costs“, “Money at all costs“.

That’s when defining your values comes into place. Every company does that exercise, defining their values so everybody knows where to look at and swim toward. That’s no different from a director sharing her vision with her team so everybody can work toward making the same film.

To create anything, you need to take a stance. Whether you’re trying to create Facebook or a film if you want to get through the noise, you need to position yourself. (The opposite of this for filmmakers is dumptruck directing)

During a one-hour conversation with Reid Hoffman for the podcast Masters of Scale, Zuckerberg talked about how he defined what was the company’s values, why it changed, and what’s the question to keep in mind to make sure you’re committing to a strong value.

How “Move Fast and Break Things” became Facebook Motto

The value is actually ‘Move Fast’. My own theory on values is that a lot of organizations have values which don’t mean very much because they’re just table stakes things like “Be Honest.” Of course you’re going to be honest! That’s not an option. You’re not giving anything up to be honest, that’s an automatic. That shouldn’t be a defining principle of the company, that should be a principle of every company.

So ‘Move Fast’ I think is interesting because you actually have to be willing to give something up to get it. And the question is “What are you willing to give up?” and early on the trade was ‘move fast and break things’. The idea was that we would tolerate some amount of bugs and flaws in the service of moving faster and learning what our community wants faster.


Why They Had to Pivot

But we got to a point where it was taking us more time to go back and fix the bugs and issues that we were creating than the speed that we were gaining by going faster. So we said “Ok, we need a new strategy to enable us to move fast.” And what we came up with was: “We’re going to do this by building the best infrastructures” so an engineer who comes from any companies is going to be able to ship their product faster here, and test it better, and move faster and all these things at Facebook than anywhere else in the world. So that’s what we mean by “Move Fast with Stable Infrastructure”.


The Question to Ask Yourself

But again we don’t get it for free, we invest a huge amount in building infrastructures. So I think these values always come down to: what are you willing to give up to get something, because they are not free, nothing is.

What works for Facebook works for us. What are you willing to give up to see your career move forward and/or create the stories you want to create?

To know the answer to that question you need to define your values: are you going for fame? for money? for making work that lasts? (depending on the answer to that question, your career choices will radically change). Whatever the story you create, you can’t put it all inside. You’ll have to give up characters, style, budget, takes, lines or even quality if you’re bound by a contract.

Knowing what we want to say is the only way to decide willingly what we are giving up to achieve our goal.